GVSU uses offensive firepower to aid struggling defense


Kirk Spencer makes a cutback last week against Northwood.

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GVL/Archive Kirk Spencer makes a cutback last week against Northwood.

Cody Eding

The best remedy for Grand Valley State University’s much-maligned defense might become its potent offense.

Facing one of the nation’s best running backs in Hillsdale College’s Joe Glendening, it was the offense’s output that ultimately helped to limit the Chargers during a 42-23 drubbing by the Lakers (7-2, 6-2 GLIAC) Saturday.

With sophomore quarterback Isiah Grimes getting back on track after returning from injury last weekend against Northwood University, GVSU’s offense had little trouble moving the ball both through the air and on the ground against Hillsdale’s defense.

The Lakers’ ability to dominate the scoreboard and line of scrimmage – they tallied 546 yards of offense – severely hampered the effectiveness of Hillsdale’s offense.

“When (Hillsdale) has the lead, they’re very good,” said GVSU coach Matt Mitchell. “It’s just little chunks, little chunks, little chunks and they kill a ton of clock.”

After the Chargers handed Glendening the ball eight times on their opening scoring drive – including seven straight times to open the game – GVSU’s offense made sure Hillsdale would be playing from behind from the second quarter on.

GVSU took a commanding 28-9 lead following Grimes’ four-yard touchdown run to open the second half.

“For us to come out in the second half and get that other touchdown to get the thing to three scores, I knew we were in pretty good shape,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t take any chances on defense. We just played a lot of zone and didn’t give up big plays.”

The offense excelled. The running back tandem of freshman Kirk Spencer and sophomore Michael Ratay outperformed the vaunted Glendening, as the pair combined for 210 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries.

Helped by the strong ground game, Grimes methodically picked apart the Hillsdale defense, and provided balance for the GVSU offense. More importantly, Grimes displayed an uncanny amount of poise and athletic ability, making smart throws and moving well both inside and outside of the pocket.

“I’m starting to feel a lot more confident,” Grimes said. “The o-line is a doing a great job and giving me a lot of time to make my reads.”

Playing with the lead, the GVSU defense had the luxury of keeping the ball in front and limiting Hillsdale’s big play opportunities. The strategy worked, as the Chargers only mustered three plays of 20 yards or more.

“The defense just came out today and executed,” said freshman defensive back Brad Horling, who led the defense with 14 total tackles. “We had a good gameplan set from the beginning of the week and we practiced it hard.

“It’s nice just to play knowing you have a lead,” Horling added.

Still, the Lakers have room for improvement. A shotgun snap sailed past Grimes during the second quarter and freshman Jamie Potts lost a fumble into the end zone from the wildcat formation on GVSU’s first drive.

“We’ve got to try to get that cleaned up,” Mitchell said.

Mistakes will be magnified as the final two games loom large in front of the Lakers. With Ferris State University’s defeat of Wayne State University Saturday, GVSU controls its own fate in the GLIAC North division. A win against Wayne State next weekend in Allendale would set up a Nov. 10 match up at Saginaw Valley State University with the GLIAC North title, and perhaps a playoff spot, on the line.

“We’ve got to stay consistent, stay executing,” said senior wide receiver Charles Johnson. “We’ve just have to do the little things right, execute and just keep practicing hard.”

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